Category Archives: Wars of the Roses

Lionel, Lord Welles – step father of Margaret Beaufort

lord welles.jpgBaron Lionel de Welles was born in 1406. The family was a Lincolnshire one but Lionel’s mother was the daughter of Lord Greystoke (pause for Tarzan jokes if you wish).  As you might expect he was part of the network of families that ruled England. Mowbray blood ran in his veins as well as a splattering of  Clifford DNA reflecting a heritage stretching from the Midlands via Yorkshire into Cumbria. John inherited his lands when he was still a minor.  It took a further five years for him to win his estate in his own right.

The family was firmly Lancastrian in its sympathies. He married in 1417 to Joan Waterton of Methley near Leeds. Her father was one of John of Gaunt’s retainers. They had one child called Richard. Lionel’s service began with Henry VI who knighted him and in whose household he served.  Lionel was a soldier as well. He went to France with Humphrey of  Gloucester in 1435 and later to Ireland where he made a bit of a hash of things being unable to control the locals.

All this knightly pursuit would have been well and good if he’d been a single man but in addition to his wife he had a mother, several sisters, four daughters and an aunt to support as well as his grandfather’s debts to pay off. In short Lord Welles was actually Baron Hardup personified.

Things changed in 1447 when he married Margaret Beauchamp of Bletsoe, the dowager duchess of Somerset who was considerably wealthier than him and with better connections for that matter.  Having secured a trophy wife, though none of the texts I’ve read have given any indication about how he managed to do this (so in the short term I will merely assume he had an absolutely charming personality and then kick myself when I remember something important about land holdings), Lionel landed the role of knight of the Garter and also Lieutenant of Calais. He managed to find time to be at home long enough for Margaret to have a son called John who was Margaret Beaufort’s half brother.

He fought at the Second Battle of St Albans in February 1461 Towton and a month later at Towton where he was killed. Edward IV promptly attained him as had been on the Lancastrian side of the battlefield. Richard de Welles didn’t inherit the family title or estates until the attainder was reversed in 1467 and generally speaking he didn’t take to the Yorkists although he managed to inch his way into Yorkist favour for a time. Richard and Lionel’s grandson were ultimately executed by Edward IV in 1471 meaning that it was Margaret Beauchamp’s son who became the first Viscount Welles.  Its a typical fifteenth century tale when alls said and done.

 

Lionel was buried in St Oswald’s Church Methley where he’d married his first wife Joan. It might have been because of the great love he bore his first wife but equally I am compelled to point out that Methley is rather closer to Towton than his Lincolnshire estates.  His monument, with some rather fine corbels and medieval glass can still be viewed today along side other West Riding notables including members of the Savile family.

Michael Hicks, ‘Welles, Leo , sixth Baron Welles (c.1406–1461)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/28998, accessed 26 April 2017]

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Who murdered the princes in the Tower?

princes_in_the_tower_2.jpgThe honest answer to that is that it rather depends on your interpretation of the sources and, as I have said before, your affiliations. Richard III is a monarch who stirs strong sentiments!  I first encountered the event and a few of the various sources aged eleven when my History teacher used the Jackdaw activity pack about the princes to encourage his class to see that History isn’t something cast in concrete and that the same source can be valued or discredited according to viewpoint and known facts. The story of the princes is the story of an unsolved murder – it’s a bit like unmasking Jack the Ripper in that everyone has their pet theory and some evidence to back up their ideas. The novelist Patricia Cornwall has spent a huge sum of money to gather overlooked evidence which points to Jack being the artist Walter Sickert. Unsolved historical murders have a fascination because everyone can look at the available evidence and draw their own conclusions.  Difficulties arise when historians – and determined amateur sleuths – try to find previously unknown evidence that has disappeared down the crevices of time  that will point in the right direction. It is often the work of painstakingly moving the pieces around until a more clear picture emerges. Until then it has to be best and most accepted fit – but that doesn’t mean that in a modern court the evidence would produce a guilty verdict.

So here  are the possibilities of what happened to the Princes- in no particular order, other than the order they’ve emerged from my brain.

  1. King Richard III had them killed. Please don’t inhale and reach for your keyboard if you think he’s innocent – he is a rather notable suspect.  Richard, as duke of Gloucester, served his brother Edward IV with loyalty and honour.  Edward left him to get on with ruling the North of England and he did a stonkingly good job of it.  The good folk of York felt sufficiently strongly about it to make a note of his deposition and death at Bosworth – an act guaranteed to hack off the new regime.  The problem for Richard, if you’re that way inclined, was that Edward IV allowed the Woodville faction to gain dominance at court in terms of lucrative positions, marriages and ultimately by giving the care of his son into Woodville hands.  Richard only found out about his brother’s death because Lord Hastings sent him a note warning of Woodville intentions to get young Edward crowned as quickly as possible which would have seen Richard as a protector without any power because he didn’t have control of the king. When Richard intercepted the young king at Northampton it could be argued that Richard was acting in the interests of rather a lot of people who weren’t terrible keen on the aforementioned Woodvilles who were regarded by many as too big for their boots – and now is not the time to go down the side alley of Jacquetta Grey’s lineage. So far so good. Nor is this post the time to go through the whole chronology of events. The key things that stick in my mind are the Eleanor Butler incident i.e. the announcement that Edward IV had already been pre contracted in marriage thus rendering all his children illegitimate and Richard as heir to the throne.  The argument is usually put forward that if the children were illegitimate and since the Titulus Regulus act of Parliament said they were then there was no way they could inherit-so why kill them?  There’s also the episode with Lord Hastings finding himself being manhandled out of a privy council meeting to a handy lump of timber where he was executed without trial – clearly a large chunk from the historical jigsaw missing there although plenty of historians have presented theories on the subject as to why Richard should fall out with his brother’s friend so dramatically and decisively. Jane Shore found herself doing public penance, lost her property and ended up in jail in the aftermath of the episode – again why should Richard do that?  His brother had plenty of other mistresses.  The problem with skulduggery is that people don’t tend to make careful notes before, during or after the event – at least not if they wanted to keep their heads. There is obviously much more that I could write about both for and against Richard’s involvement.  I have four rather hefty volumes on my desk as I type.  Richard was the key suspect at the time according to rumour- Dominic Mancini left an account of events as he understood them.  He left England the week of Richard’s coronation, doesn’t provide an account of what Richard looked like and his manuscript went missing until 1934.  He says:” But after Hastings was removed, all the attendants who had waited on the king were debarred access to him. He and his brother were withdrawn into the inner apartments of the Tower proper, and day by day  began to be seen more rarely behind the bars and windows, til at length they ceased to appear altogether. The Physician John Argentine, the last of his attendants whose services the king enjoyed, reported that the young kin, like a victim prepared for sacrifice, sought remission of his sins by daily confession and penance, because he believed that death was facing him.”

    “I have seen many men burst into tears and lamentations when mention was made of him after his removal from men’s sight; and already there is a suspicion that he had been done away with. Whether, However, he has been done away with, and by what manner of death, so far I have not yet at all discovered.” 

    Mancini recognises that rumours aren’t fact but does give us a circumstantial account which holds water in that he doesn’t have any particular axe to grind on the subject.  Richard was in charge – whilst dying in the Tower was a huge risk for any of its imprisoned inhabitants it should only have happened if the bloke at the top of the chain of command gave the order; medieval Kings needed to secure their dynasties.  In having Edward of Middleham created Prince of Wales, Richard was laying a marker for the future.  If nothing else, and this is my thought on the subject, the Wars of the Roses would have taught him that having two kings on the board isn’t a terribly good idea in terms of political stability.  Little boys, bastardised or not, have a nasty tendency of growing up to be focal points of rebellion (and so does the idea of their existence as Henry VII swiftly discovered). I should also add that I have no problem with it if Richard did do it – medieval kings weren’t required to be nice they were required to hold on to the throne, pass it to the next generation and preferably win a large number of wars abroad whilst avoiding the scenario of their own citizens killing each other. I might also add that no one has any problem with Edward IV bumping off Henry VI in order to ensure no further unrest – of course he had the body displayed which eases the problem of conspiracy theories popping up out of the woodwork and he produced heirs – not to mention a brother who managed to land himself with a far more juicy tale. Equally Henry IV who bumped off his cousin doesn’t suffer as much as Richard on account of the fact that there were two further generations of Lancastrian kings making Henry’s actions less noteworthy (if you wanted to keep your head) whilst Richard lost his throne and his life after only two years  allowing the Tudor propaganda machine to get to work which also muddies some of the sources.

  2. Henry Stafford, the Duke of Buckingham was descended from both John of Gaunt and Thomas of Woodstock. Again, if contemporary/near contemporary accounts are to be believed he had something of a grudge against the Woodvilles believing that his marriage to Katherine Woodville was beneath his dignity and that he hadn’t been permitted to take up his correct position in society. There are accounts where it is Stafford who is encouraging Richard to do away with the two princes. Things weren’t going terribly well for Stafford in terms of promotion and power although he swiftly became virtual ruler of the whole of Wales when Richard followed his brother’s model of giving titles, offices and lands to people he trusted and then letting them get on with it. By the winter of 1483 Bucking was in open rebellion against Richard and in cahoots with Margaret Beaufort who we  know he met on the road to Brecon where Bishop Morton was being kept under house arrest.  There seem to be two separate plots that turned into one plot – untidy but demonstrating that the great and the good had seen an opportunity for making their moves and also demonstrating that beneath the surface there were some very nasty currents at work – none of which is evidenced through much more than hearsay, some gleaned documentary comments and a few very interesting travel itineraries. The combination of  Buckingham’s arrogance and a few well chosen words of encouragement could have  been enough to see Buckingham have the boys murdered.  He had the means and the opportunity in that he was Constable of the Tower and had Richard’s trust.  He was executed in Salisbury on 3 November 1483.  He was not permitted to make a speech before his death.  It is plausible that he had the boys killed in order to make life difficult for Richard and also to open his way to the throne – it would have to be said that if the latter was the case Stafford was an inordinately optimistic chap.  If the former is true then he succeeded better than he could ever have dreamed. Jean Molinet is one of the sources who references Buckingham as does Commines.  There’s also a fragment of manuscript in the Ashmolean that points in Buckingham’s direction. The key thing here is that Richard didn’t know about it until it was too late and then who would have believed him.
  3.  

    Sir James Tyrell- according to Sir Thomas More and Polydore Vergil – the chap that did the deed. He apparently confessed in 1502 prior to his execution.  There is no known copy of the confession in existence. The Great Chronicle of London repeated the rumour.

  4. And that was more or less it until historians began revising their views in the Twentieth Century – the Victorians as the image above demonstrates were rather keen on the wicked uncle theory.  There is an account written by the Tudor historian John Stowe which says that there was a failed rescue attempt complete with a diversion of fire.  Again, I have no problem with that as it is entirely plausible that Stowe had access to sources that are now lost – happens a lot in this story.  This account opens up the possibility that the princes were killed accidentally or on purpose by someone other than on the orders of the folk in charge.  If there was a rescue attempt and it went wrong it would be very easy for the princes’ guards to kill them either to prevent their rescue or – and this is pure speculation- trying to do their best Thomas Becket replay for reward or someone could have paid the killer on the staff to do the deed – which opens up the possibility of the Lancastrian faction weighing in…all of which has no evidential base – Josephine Tey and Philippa Gregory are fiction writers. They can take  scraps and use the wriggle room as they wish. For accounts in the history books to be changed there needs to be something rather more substantial.
  5. They died accidentally or of illness. Well, why didn’t Richard just say?  Who would have believed him – look what happened to Edward II and Richard II and Henry VI – no one believed their deaths were natural….and that’s mainly because they weren’t.  There are plenty of other examples of the elite dying unexpectedly and the next thing you know its on account of poison or dastardly deeds. The average medieval man and woman in the street liked a conspiracy theory as much as the present generation – another thing which doesn’t help the primary accounts that we do have.  It’s largely all gossip.
  6. They didn’t die at all.  There was a story in Tyrell’s family that he removed the boys from the Tower.  There’re un-identified children in Richard’s financial records in Sheriff Hutton (oh goody, more speculation- but at least there’s something documented). There is also the Laslau Theory that says that John Clement, Margaret Gigg’s husband, was actually Richard of York. It’s a really interesting theory based on Holbein’s picture of Sir Thomas More’s family – obviously with flaws like the idea of Sir Edward Guildford (father of the duke of Northumberland’s wife) actually being Edward V incognito  but it would account for some of Sir Thomas More’s more glaring errors in his account of events – if you’re a follower of the Laslau Theory, Sir Thomas rather than being a Tudor propagandist/historian (depending on your viewpoint) is actually laying a screen of misinformation in order to protect the identity of a surviving prince. Laslau does offer some slender  threads of documentary evidence in his quest which are  interesting and which muddy the waters still further.  And finally and most obvious of the lot there is Henry VII’s on-going fear of pretenders.  King James of Scotland accepted Perkin Warbeck as Duke of York. This isn’t without its difficulties as Warbeck was initially acclaimed in Dublin as Earl of Warwick but you get the gist.  Elizabeth Woodville testified to the legitimacy of her children but never accused anyone of murder – either before or after Richard’s demise…and yes there’s a whole host of things that could be added to that statement.
  7. There are a couple of other candidates for murderer- take John Howard who became Duke of Norfolk.  He was the claimant to the estate of the Mowbray Dukes of Norfolk.  He was given custody of the Tower of London under less than regular circumstances the night the Princes are supposed to have disappeared from the Tower (Weir). He had opportunity and it turns out he had a motive—Richard, Duke of York was also Duke of Norfolk in right of his deceased child bride Anne, the daughter of the last Mowbray Duke.  Normally land and title reverted to the family where a child marriage was not consummated and no heir produced – which is why Edmund Tudor didn’t wait until Margaret Beaufort was a bit older before getting her with child.  he was concerned she’d die and he’d lose the lolly. In this case though, Richard had kept the title, the estates and the revenue…
  8. And finally John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln. John had been by Uncle Richard’s side throughout 1483.  Like Buckingham he was trusted.  He would become Richard’s heir presumptive after Edward of Middleham’s death.  If we’re going to suggest that Buckingham was looking to be king then it also makes sense that someone a bit nearer to the Crown would bear some investigation.

The thing is that there is some evidence but its contradictory and circumstantial.  It might be possible to rule out the princes’ survival if the bones in the urn in Westminster Abbey turned out to belong to Edward V and Richard of York. Even if they weren’t it wouldn’t necessarily mean that they had survived their misadventure. And if the bones were theirs, it wouldn’t prove who did the killing since the skeletons did not emerge from their resting place clutching a note identifying the murderer – though it would make the account offered by More more plausible – errors and all.

And that’s all I intend to post about the Princes in the Tower for the time being.  Most of the time, with a few notable exceptions, if it weren’t for the traffic stats on the History Jar I wouldn’t know whether anyone was reading my ramblings or not.  I’ve not got the hang of being liked, joining communities or developing conversations through comments – Richard III, the Woodvilles and the Princes on the other hand certainly get a response! So thank you for your comments – positive, negative, knowledgeable and thought provoking as they are.

Primary sources or near primary sources include:

André, Bernard: Vita Henrici VII (in Memorials of King Henry VII, ed. J. Gairdner, Rolls Series, 1858)

Bull of Pope Innocent VIII on the Marriage of Henry VII with Elizabeth of York (ed. J. Payne-Collier, Camden Miscellany I, 1847)

Fabyan, Robert: The Concordance of Histories: The New Chronicles of England and France (1516) (ed. H. Ellis, 1811)

Grafton, Richard: Grafton’s Chronicle, or History of England (2 vols, ed. H. Ellis, 1809)

Hall, Edward: The Union of the Two Noble and Illustre Families of Lancaster and York (London, 1550; ed. H. Ellis, 1809; facsimile edition of the original published 1970)

Holinshed, Raphael: Chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland (6 vols, ed. H. Ellis, 1807–8)

Leland, John: Collectanea (6 vols, ed. T. Hearne, Oxford, 1770–74)

A London Chronicle in the Time of Henry VII and Henry VIII (ed. C. Hopper, Camden Society, Camden Miscellany IV, 1839)

 

More, Sir Thomas: The History of King Richard the Third (in The Complete Works of Sir Thomas More, Vol. II, ed. R. S. Sylvester and others, Yale, 1963, London, 1979)

Rous, John: Joannis Rossi Antiquarii Warwicensis. Historia Regum Angliae (ed. T. Hearne, Oxford, 1716 and 1745)

The Song of the Lady Bessy

Stow, John: A Survey of London

Vergil, Polydore: The Anglica Historia of Polydore Vergil, AD 1485–1573 (trans. and ed. D. Hay, Camden Series, 1950)

For secondary sources both for and against Richard as well as presenting other possibilities and candidates see http://erenow.com/biographies/richardiiiandtheprincesinthetower/26.html

 

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Sir James Tyrell – reputed murderer of the Princes in the Tower.

Princes in towerFor those of you who like your history traditional – boo hiss!  For those of you who like your history revised – poor maligned soul!  I’ve blogged about Sir James before.  Depending on your interpretation of the sources and your historical affiliations, he either murdered the princes in the Tower, has been framed for the deed or for those of you who like happy endings there is a story that he removed them from the Tower and shuttled them to obscurity in the Suffolk countryside – I’ll get to that in another post.

Sir James is the chap who worked for Richard III – no problem with that, plenty of facts to support it.  It looks like he started on the Plantagenet career ladder in 1471 which would coincide with Richard getting his mitts on the Neville inheritance – remember he was married to Anne Neville, widow of Prince Edward of Lancaster and daughter of the Kingmaker. This would account for how Tyrell from Gipping in Suffolk came into Gloucester’s employment. We know he served in the Scottish war in 1492.

Once Richard was in power he was rewarded with a number of prominent positions across the country- which may have been tricky when it came to actually doing the jobs so presumably from Cornwall to Wales he had a number of deputies to help out.

He turns up in the Paston Letters in 1473 when he is identified as the employee who transported the Countess of Warwick, Anne Neville’s mother, from her sanctuary in Beaulieu to Middleham and Richard’s custody – Edward IV having conveniently declared the unfortunate countess dead for the purposes of the legal system so that brothers Richard and George could inherit estates which properly should have belonged to the countess.

In 1483  he helped carry Edward IV’s body to its final resting place and the same year Bishop Rotherham, the chap who’d helpfully rushed the Great Seal of England along to Westminster Abbey where he handed it into the care of Elizabeth Woodville on realising that Richard of Gloucester had taken charge of the young king, found himself in the custody of Sir James Tyrell. – Nothing unpleasant happened and the bishop died in his bed in 1500, just in case you were wondering.

It was in 1483, if Sir Thomas More and Polydore Vergil are to be believed Tyrell arrived in the Tower late one evening with a letter from Richard III, Brackenbury – the Constable of the Tower handed over the keys and Tyrell got rid of the princes by having them smothered.  Clearly More who was only five at the time wasn’t watching events unfold through a telescope and  Vergil- Henry VII’s official historian- wasn’t hiding in a convenient trunk, quill and parchment in hand to record events as they unfolded. Tyrell, inconveniently, didn’t keep a diary nor did he hand himself in to the authorities immediately after the event. Furthermore he couldn’t even find the bodies,  More says it was because Brackenbury removed them from where Tyrell had put them.

At the beginning of 1485 Tyrell was given command of Guisnes, a fortress in the Pale of Calais where he was in August and where he stayed when the Plantagenet dynasty became the Tudor dynasty. He was not attainted. On the 16th June 1485 Tyrell was issued with a pardon from Henry VII for anything and everything (well it was certainly unspecified). And then the pardon was issued again.  Two pardons in swift succession tends to make some folk think that Tyrell may have been doing work on behalf of the Tudors prior to Bosworth – bringing a whole new meaning to the concept of being a double agent. I would merely point out that whilst this is possible that in order to inherit Henry Tudor would have had to kill off rather a lot of people before the family tree perched the crown on his bonce…think Alex Guiness in Kind Hearts and Coronets for the general idea (spoiler alert – a distant relation stages a series of unlikely accidents wiping out an entire family in order to inherit). Historians have argued both sides of the equation eloquently and with passion with the same basic evidence.  It tends to come down to whether they are pro-Richard or pro-Henry.

What we can be sure of is that up until 1501 Tyrell was a man of influence and power.  Then he helped Edmund de la Pole, possible Plantagenet heir, avoid Henry VII’s wrath.  Next thing you know he’s under arrest on charges of treason and there is apparently a confession – allegedly made under torture- to the effect that it was him who topped Eddie and Richard. Quite honestly, I think most of us would agree that we would fess up to having committed the murders under those circumstances.  Unfortunately the paper copy of the confession seems to have been poorly filed and hasn’t yet turned up – meaning that it possibly never existed if you’re that way inclined.  Henry VII executed Tyrell for treason but failed to mention the murder of two members of the royal family  which you think he might have done, even in passing, as it would have scotched rumours of pretenders which bubbled up throughout his reign. It was pointed out to me that Richard ought to have paraded the princes in order to douse the rumours of 1483- and so he should.  But equally so should Henry have announced that Tyrell had confessed and executed him not just for treason but for murder…did he? No – he didn’t.   Maybe he didn’t want to draw attention to the princes  because it would, after all, have reminded his citizens that his general claim to the throne was a tad shaky – and yes I know he was the last Lancastrian standing, was married to Elizabeth of York and had won the Battle of Bosworth but Henry spent most of his reign bolstering up his claim one way or another so to draw attention to the correct albeit missing claimants might have been a bit counter productive in his mind.  Do I know that for sure? No – I don’t.  Sadly, Henry VII didn’t keep a personal diary, it’s just his financial accounts that are pretty nifty. Am I bearing in the general direction of sarcasm?  Quite possibly. There is only a basic amount of evidence and as any decent lawyer will tell you any story can be worked from both ends.

Tyrell was not, apparently, permitted to make a speech before being executed. Three years later the attainder against Tyrell was reversed and his son inherited Tyrell’s property.

Did Tyrell murder the princes? Quite probably  based on the evidence in hand but until such time as more evidence is forthcoming – like a DNA test on the bones purported to be the princes-  History’s biggest mystery will keep folk passionate and partisan not to mention keeping book sales buoyant.

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Sir Robert Brackenbury’s daughter

Princes in towerSir Robert Brackenbury died at Bosworth in August 1485 fighting for Richard III. He’s best known as the Constable of the Tower who refused to kill the princes in the Tower i.e. Edward V and Richard duke of York on his master’s orders- Sir Thomas More’s version- but felt able to hand the keys over to Sir James Tyrell with a view to dispatching the aforementioned.

At the risk of being contentious, or merely stating the obvious -it was either Richard III or the Duke of Buckingham according to rumour at the time. Frankly whilst Buckingham could have done it thus framing Richard and getting him a step closer to the throne it does seem rather a huge leap  of ambition as there were plenty of people in line before Buckingham for the crown (though stranger things have happened historically speaking).  In terms of means, motive and opportunity  as well as available sources the finger of blame points heavily at the wicked uncle in the contemporary and Tudor sources…and yes I know that the Tudor sources weren’t ever going to paint Richard in a warm and friendly light.  I don’t suppose that Lord Hastings or Earl Rivers would paint Richard in a warm and friendly light either. Plantagenet kings did brutal things to gain and then to keep power – getting rid of unwanted nephews was hardly an innovation; though unlikely to win friends and influence posterity.

 

Sir Thomas More is not without his critics. The man was only five years old when the story kicked off. He was Cardinal Morton’s page, but he was a lawyer and unafraid, or so it seems, of irritating monarchs. He talked to people who had been alive at the time of the princes’ disappearance- to people who may have speculated and remembered and gossiped – none of which is evidence but is useful if you’re Thomas More writing a history – something which incidentally he never finished, never corrected for errors and which may have had allegorical tendencies…which is a lot of ifs, whats and maybes but its the best you’re going to get from this post.

 

Anyway back to Brackenbury who was apparently prepared to die rather than do as Richard ordered despite the lucrative rewords he was receiving at the time. He’d been made constable of the Tower for life as well as master of the mint. Juicy little estates seemed to fall into his pocket at a click of Richard’s fingers  along with posts such as Sheriff of Kent- and as we all know ‘he who pays the piper calls the tune.’  In the next breath Brackenbury, without any apparent sense of irony, happily hands over the keys to the princes’ prison – which seems somewhat disingenuous. It was also claimed that James Tyrell, who is generally accepted as the murderer by those sources that identify the doer of the deed, couldn’t find the bodies after the event because for reasons best known to himself Sir Robert had shifted them – not that he felt inclined to raise hue and cry or point any fingers at anyone…making him an accessory to the deed whether he wanted to be or not. Unsurprisingly, he doesn’t do well at the hands of Shakespeare who drew hugely on More’s history as well as the writings of Polydore Vergil.

Robert, aside from refusing to kill Plantagenet sprigs but looking the other way whilst someone else did, remained loyal to Richard III. Plain old Robert Brackenbury became Sir Robert during Christmas 1484. He took part in Richard’s final charge at Bosworth dying alongside him. His name features on an attainder for raising troops at Leicester. Four years later the attainder was reversed so that family lands in Durham which had been in the family since the twelfth century could be drawn on by his daughters Anne and Elizabeth.

Elizabeth Brackenbury, Robert’s daughter, found herself in the Minories with the Duchess of Norfolk.  When she died she asked her executors to reimburse the duchess for her kindness. And that is where Sir Thomas More comes back into the story – More was in the habit of visiting the Minories to see a nun called Joyeuce Lee who was the sister of a friend of his. One finds oneself wondering what More heard during his visits – as well as Elizabeth Mowbray (duchess of Norfolk) the mother of Anne Mowbray – Richard of York’s little bride there was Elizabeth Brackenbury, Mary Tyrell who was according to Weir (no fan of Richard’s) the sister or cousin of Sir James, Mary’s aunt – Anne Montgomery whose husband was the executor of Edward IV’s will and a loyalist of Richard’s (Weir:170). One can’t help wondering what the ladies knew, what they talked about and how much of it Joyeuce relayed to the young lawyer who visited her. Of course, that’s not evidence….but…

The story from behind the convent walls was further corroborated  by an anonymous source that had a hand in the murders and who lived in fear of his life – according to More at any rate.

Make of it what you will! It is English History’s favourite topic for conspiracy theories after all – though from this angle it seems like a wicked uncle is involved in there somewhere.

Harris, Barbara J (2002) English Aristocratic Women, 1450-1550: Marriage and Family, Property and Careers.

Weir, Alison (1992) The Princes in the Tower. New York: Ballantine Books

 

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Battle of St Albans – round two

wars-of-rosesThe second Battle of St Albans was fought on 17 February 1461 and the result may have come as a bit of a surprise to the Earl of Warwick – he lost.  His young cousin Edward, Earl of March shortly to be King Edward IV beat the Lancastrians at Mortimer’s Cross only a short time previously with no experience in the battlefield but Warwick a battle hardened warrior lost the next confrontation between the Yorkists and the Lancastrians.

The story is as follows – Margaret of York and her allies advanced south from Wakefield.  Her forces included Scots and Northumbrians and “northerners”.  Warwick spread word in London that this group of people were akin to savages in terms of plunder, loot, pillage etc.  In short he won the smear campaign. Londoners swiftly arrived at the conclusion that only Warwick could save them from the hordes of hairy northerners heading in their direction.

Warwick duly obliged by leaving London with a large army.  Unfortunately he didn’t quite know where the hordes of aforementioned hairy bruits were so he had to deploy his force over quite a large front and when one of his scouts told him that they were at Dunstable Warwick dismissed the notion – which was unfortunate because the Lancastrians really were at Dunstable.

The next morning they arrived in St Albans. They were led by Andrew Trollope – who we’ve encountered before, son of a family of Durham dyers, hero of the Hundred Years War and possible deceiver of the Duke of York- he was the first to attack. By the end of the day he would be knighted.

Warwick and his brother John Neville, Lord Montagu (shortly to become Earl of Northumberland), and all their men, had to turn around because they were all looking in the wrong direction for the Lancastrians. Meanwhile Henry Beaufort, Duke of Somerset had found his way into the middle of St Albans and the Yorkist line of communications turned to to be rather dodgy.  For some reason or another Montagu’s men did a runner, Montagu got himself captured by the Lancastrians and Warwick wasn’t where he was supposed to be.

The Yorkists left in a hurry – so much of a hurry in fact that they left King Henry VI sitting under a tree guarded by only two knights – Sir Thomas Kyrill and Lord William Bonville.  They remained with Henry to protect him and might well have expected more honourable treatment than they received when the dust settled.  Both were executed for their pains – which doesn’t do the Lancastrians credit. The only reason John Neville escaped the same fate was because of the possibility of a prisoner swap.

You’d have thought at that point it was all over bar the shouting but Margaret of Anjou hadn’t counted on the Londoners refusing her entry to the capital city on account of their concerns over the hairy northerners.  So although the road to London was open and the royal Lancastrian family were all reunited Margaret of Anjou was still not victorious.

On the 22nd of February it was the Earl of Warwick and Edward, Earl of March who entered London where Edward was shortly afterwards declared king by popular acclaim.

It would take one more bloody battle before this particular game of chess saw a white rose king taking sole control of the board…for the time being at least.

 

 

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On the borders with the White Rose

IMG_2643.jpgThe Neville faction personified by Richard Neville, the Earl of Warwick a.k.a. The Kingmaker dominated the borders during the first reign of Edward IV from 1461.  He was appointed warden of both the east and west marches. Two years later Warwick’s brother John, Lord Montagu was made warden of the east march swiftly followed by the acquisition of the earldom of Northumberland.

It fell to Warwick to quell Lancastrian unrest in the north and it also fell to him to negotiate with the Scots. In 1464 the two nations arrived at a truce which upheld march law.  Scotland under James III had encouraged  Lancastrian unrest and supported Margaret of Anjou in her bid to retake the kingdom from the North but as it became apparent that the French weren’t breaking into a sweat to promote Henry VI’s cause James’ enthusiasm for antagonising his new neighbour dwindled.

Inevitably perhaps, Warwick’s relationship with Edward IV soured. In Europe at the start of the reign there had been a joke that there were two kings in England of whom one was Richard Neville but no one could remember the name of the other.  As Edward found his feet and his own trusted circle Warwick found himself being pushed out into the cold.  The pinch point came in 1464 whilst Warwick was in France negotiating for the hand of Bona of Savoy.  It must have been a tad embarrassing when it came out that Edward was already married to a beautiful if impecunious English widow with two sons.

In the North the growing tensions were reflected by a Lancastrian insurrection led by “Robin of Redesdale,” – a ember of the Conyers family and one of Warwick’s tenants.

To make matters worse in 1470, Edward who ruled the country through a means of grants and men  e.g. the Herbert family were his means of ruling Wales, now decided that the Percy family should be returned to their earldom.  The people of Northumbria had never taken kindly to  a Neville overlord.  Unfortunately John Neville did not take kindly to having the earldom of Northumberland removed fem his clutches even if he was compensated with lands and the title Marquis of Montagu.  It was almost inevitable that he would change sides.

In the west march Richard, Duke of Gloucester was assigned the title of warden just as his brother fled the country.

There followed a brief interlude between 1470 and 1471 when Henry VI was nominally in charge.  Fortunately for the English the Scots were busy with their own problems so didn’t take advantage of the game of musical thrones in which their English neighbours were indulging.

sun in splenour-penrith.jpg

To cut the long story  of 1471 short, the Earl of Warwick had a nasty accident at the Battle of Barnet, Lancastrian Prince Edward had an even nastier accident at the Battle of Tewkesbury, Margaret of Anjou was rounded up and eventually deported, Henry VI had a nasty accident in the Tower.  Richard of Gloucester, not yet twenty, having proved his martial capabilities at both the above battles resumed his role as warden of the west march. He arrived in Penrith that same year.  Tradition has it that he lived in The Gloucester Arms which still sports two boar above the doorway.

By 1474 the English and the Scots had reached a state of mutual appreciation that would have seen Prince James of Scotland being married off to Edward’s daughter Cecilia. Unfortunately  cross border theft appears to have continued as usual.  In 1475 according to Neville, James was complaining about the capture and plunder of two Scottish vessels, one of them his own personal property (Neville, 159). In 1480 usual service resumed and the English and the Scots made war upon one another, not least because although Cecilia’s dowry had been paid there was no sign of any nuptials.  There was also the small matter of the Scots being ensconced in Berwick – a consequence of the Lancaster V York conflict.

In 1482 an army was gathered.  Richard of Gloucester was appointed Lieutenant General and off they all went on a sight seeing trip through the Lowlands.  Berwick became English once again and just to add a little confusion to the scene James III’s brother the Duke of Albany declared himself to be King of Scotland and swore loyalty to Edward IV.  The English army was now committed to putting Albany on the throne meanwhile James III was troubled by bolshie nobles (nothing new there then) who rebelled against his lead and returned him to Edinburgh where he was kept a prisoner.

Richard and his party of touring soldiers joined the Edinburgh party in August.  The good burghers of Edinburgh swiftly searched their pockets and down the back of their sofas in order to repay Cecilia’s dowry and make the English go away – which they duly did leaving James in Edinburgh Castle with the lords who’d rebelled against him and Albany in charge of the town. At the risk of confusing affairs still further Albany then besieged his own brother. Leaving the Scots to their own devices Richard returned to England for the time being but Edward IV’s death in April 1483 brought the war to an end as Richard had other things on his mind after that.

Richard now needed someone else to fulfil the role of steward of Penrith Castle and warden of the west march.  He chose a man named John Huddleston. Huddleston looked to the Harrington family for patronage. The Harringtons  were one of two families who dominated Lancashire and Cheshire.  Their main contenders for this role were the  Stanley  family who took advantage of the death of Thomas Harrington’s death at the Battle of Wakefield fighting for Richard of York, and also that of his son leaving only two girls to inherit.  There was a messy court case, some fisticuffs and rather a lot of fudging by Edward IV and Richard of Gloucester who both recognised the loyalty of the Harrington family and the, er, how can I put this – oh yes- shiftiness of the Stanleys. However,   Edward IV  rather astutely recognised that he couldn’t do without the Stanleys.  Richard by selecting John Huddleston for the important role of warden signposted a downturn in Stanley fortunes and power – the rest as they say is history – as at Bosworth the Stanley family backed Henry Tudor. To read more about the Harringtons and Stanleys try this blog – Plantagenet Dynasty- here.

The images come from St Andrew’s Church Penrith.  They show close ups of the Neville Window which can be found in the south wall of the nave. The current window is a nineteenth century creation using fragments from an older window.  It shows Richard of York, Cecily Neville and the Earl of Warwick’s insignia of the bear and ragged staff.

 

Neville, Cynthia J (1998) Violence, Custom and Law. The Anglo-Scottish Border Lands in the Later Middle Ages. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press

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Duke of Exeter -was he murdered or did he slip?

holland-armsHenry Holland, Third Duke of Exeter was yet another descendent of John of Gaunt. His grandmother Elizabeth was John’s daughter. He had a claim to the throne after the death of Henry VI, something which Edward IV may have been all too aware of being the aforementioned earl’s brother-in-law.

Henry had been Richard of York’s ward.  Richard married his eldest daughter off to Holland in order to secure the dynastic links and power base.  Unfortunately for both Holland and the Duke of York it would appear that the Exeter lands weren’t terribly productive.  Consequentially Holland was always in finical difficulties which didn’t help his disposition overly.

He developed an unsavoury reputation early in his career when he seized Lord Cromwell’s estate at Ampthill and had him falsely accused of treason.  He also extended his land holding through the convenient method of fraud. This was all dragged through the law courts and resulted in no one wanting to be sheriff of Bedfordshire on account of Holland’s bullying tactics. In the end he aligned himself to one of Cromwell’s enemies in order to further his cause – thus demonstrating beautifully the fact that the Wars of the Roses could be said to be a bunch of local disputes that got seriously out of hand.

There wasn’t any great love between the Yorks and Holland so it probably didn’t unduly bother Holland that his alliance with Lord Egremont was one of the causal factors in him being in the Lancastrian army chasing Richard of York around the countryside in December 1460.  Henry Holland was a commander at the Battle of Wakefield on December 30 1460.  Presumably he hadn’t enjoyed being imprisoned in Wallingford Castle in 1455 after Richard assumed the title of Protector when Henry VI was incapacitated on his father-in-law’s orders.  In reality, Richard’s descent from two sons of Edward III gave him a better claim to be protector than Holland who thought he ought to have the job. He was descended from John of Gaunt and the First Duke of Exeter had been Richard II’s half-brother.  York’s claim came from the fact that he was descended from the second surviving son, Lionel of Antwerp via the Mortimer line.  The Mortimers had been Richard II’s heirs.  As if that wasn’t bad enough Holland wasn’t given a role of any importance. Holland threw his toys out of his pram, fermented rebellion in the north and consorted with the Scots – he was lucky that a year in Wallingford was all that he got.

He was, at least, consistent in his support for the Lancastrian cause being present not only at Wakefield but also at the Second Battle of St Albans and Towton.  He scarpered from the latter and managed to escape to France where he joined Margaret of Anjou.

Unsurprisingly family relations were at an all time low by this point. Not only was his attainted of treason but his wife Anne who had been married off to him when she was eight-years-old sought a legal separation from a man who’d gained a reputation for being deeply unpleasant one way or another. They had one child, Anne Holland who would be married off to one of Elizabeth Woodville’s sons from her first marriage, and pre-decease her unfortunate father.

In 1471 he returned to England with the Earl of Warwick who had stopped being Yorkist and become a Lancastrian in what can only be described as a giant strop when Edward IV stopped listening to his advice.  Warwick died at Barnet. Henry Holland though badly wounded managed to reach sanctuary in London. Edward had him rounded up and sent to the Tower.  He had for a time been the Constable of the Tower so at least he was familiar with his accommodation.

By the following year Anne was able to have the marriage annulled, she went on to marry Thomas St Leger but Edward IV seems to have welcomed Henry back into the fold as he was part of the military expedition that set off to make war on the French. It wasn’t a roaring success from the wider population’s point of view as they’d been heavily taxed and expected a decent battle at the very least. What they got was a treaty whilst Edward IV received money to go away and an annual pension.

As for Henry Holland?  He had an unfortunate accident on the way home.  Apparently he fell overboard.  The Milanese Ambassador suggested that the accident was caused by a couple of burly nautical  types picking him up and throwing him…

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

 

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Thomas, Lord Roos

lroosThe name of Lord Roos crops up with monotonous regularity during the Wars of the Roses between 1460 until 1464’s Battle of Hexham.  Unfortunately he was caught skulking in the aftermath of Lancastrian defeat and executed.

So, who exactly was he.  Thomas, Lord Roos or de Ros was the ninth baron of that particular title.  One of his ancestors was one of the signatories of the Magna Carta.  Our Thomas inherited the title from his father when he was just four years old. His mother, Eleanor,  was a daughter of the Earl of Warwick – the one who was responsible for educating the young king Henry VI. After Roos Senior’s demise Eleanor married Edmund Beaufort, the second Duke of  Somerset (he’s the younger Beaufort brother who wanted to marry the widowed Katherine of Valois but the Duke of Gloucester put a spanner in the works passing a law stating that Katherine would need her son’s permission when he came of age and if any marrying went on before then that all the new spouses lands and titles would be forfeit – which put Edmund off the idea somewhat).  Feeling light headed?  If nothing else, take away from this pedigree that Lord Roos was deeply Lancastrian through political affiliation, blood lines and loyalty not least because Henry VI favoured young Thomas with various tax reliefs and grants of land.

 

Lord Roos was in command of the Lancastrian left flank on the Wakefield side of the Lancastrian army with Lord Clifford holding the centre and the earl of Wiltshire holding the Lancastrian right flank.  Richard of York left Sandal Castle and came down onto open ground thinking that he outnumbered the Lancastrians who gave ground in the first instance which drew the Yorkists still further into the waiting trap.  Unfortunately the Lancastrian left and right flank were concealed and so Richard did not realise his error. They now emerged, cutting off his retreat and in Edward Hall’s words “catching him like a fish in a net.” Hall is not a reliable chronicler being heavy on Tudor spin but he does have an unexpected link to the events at Wakefield, his grandfather Sir Davy Hall was a loyal servant of York and he had advised caution during the Yorkist council of war – i.e. staying firmly behind Sandal’s wall and awaiting substantial reinforcements.  In the event Sir Davy Hall died at Wakefield along with approximately 3,000 other men – 2,600 ish Yorkists and 200 Lancastrians.

As for Lord Roos, well Fortune’s wheel turns, albeit slowly and one of his descendants became the Earl of Rutland during the reign of Henry VIII – which is rather ironic given that Richard of York’s son Edmund, who was killed during his flight from the battle by Lord Clifford, held the title Earl of Rutland.

 

The double banner at the top of this post depicts his arms.  The charge of which are apparently three water bougets on a red or “gules” background.  A bouget or budget for those of you who feel the need to know is a leather bag on a pole or yoke used to carry water (thank you my very old Oxford English Dictionary).  Double click on the image to open up a rather marvellous web page depicting if not all, most, banners that could be found on the various battle fields of the Wars of the Roses.

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Jean de Waurin – Chronicler

edward-receives-book-jwaurin-detail.jpgJean de Waurin or de Wavrin, pictured on his knees presenting his work to Edward IV, is a bit of a conundrum according to the British Library who also offer a digitised version of his history, written in French http://www.bl.uk/manuscripts/FullDisplay.aspx?ref=Royal_MS_15_E_IV.

He’s thought to be the illegitimate son of Robert Count de Wavrin who was legitimised by the Duke of Burgundy after a successful career fighting in the Hundred Years War commencing at the Battle of Agincourt. Being Burgundian he was an English ally.

 

He wrote a chronicle of English history to stave off boredom, so he claimed, after a successful career as a soldier and then a diplomat – and that’s the conundrum; was he simply someone seeking to fill his time or was there a more significant underlying message. Is he a Yorkist spin doctor? What makes the chronicle unique is that he knew the people and saw the Wars of the Roses from a European perspective. He’s not always accurate, take the Battle of Wakefield for example – he puts a spin on it that paints the Lancastrians in a none too positive light as well as using a bit of creative licence to explain the course of events. We know from the evidence of other chronicles that Sir Andrew Trollope’s plans to arrive at Sandal with men disguised as Yorkists then lure York into the open having won his confidence is an unlikely set of events.

What de Waurin does do is to describe people from first hand knowledge and try to explain reasons for their success or otherwise. Gransden uses the example of Edward IV’s marriage to Elizabeth Woodville. He observes that although she is descended from the St Pol family and that her mother had been the Duchess of Bedford that her father was a mere knight and that she herself was a widow with two children. He explains that for these two reasons Edward’s counsellors were signally unamused by Edward’s marriage to her. He also explores the reasons behind the Earl of Warwick’s power and prestige.

 

Interestingly de Waurin knew Antony Woodville (Elizabeth Woodville’s brother) as well as the Earl of Warwick. Woodville fancied himself as a patron of the arts and its perhaps not surprising that de Waurin’s lavishly illustrated chronicles contain images of Edward IV’s marriage to Elizabeth Woodville and also an image of himself presenting his book to Edward IV – the king’s copy can be found in the British Library these days. It is from de Waurin that we learn about the political shenanigans at court between the Woodvilles and the likes of Warwick and the Duke of Clarence.

 

De Waurin’s chronicle which covers English history drawing on earlier chronicles explores the reigns of Edward II and Richard II amongst others. He finishes in 1471 when Edward and his line looked to be secure on the throne.

 

Gransden, Antonia (1997). Historical Writing in England: c. 1307 to the early sixteenth century London: Routledge

British Library blog (see link in post)

 

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Sir Andrew Trollope

sir andrew trollope.pngWe know that Sir Andrew Trollope was a bit of a hero so far as the Hundred Years War is concerned.  He was probably part of Sir John Falstaff’s company in the 1430s.  We also know that he did a bit of nifty side changing at the Battle of Ludford Bridge in 1459 from the Yorkist to the Lancastrian side – nothing too surprising there; everybody seems to have swapped sides at some point in the proceedings.  It is actually a bit surprising he was on the Yorkist side in the first place as he had become associated with the Beauforts during his time in France.

It is explained by the fact that Trollope began the period of the Wars of the Roses in Calais  as Master Porter, a position he was appointed to in 1455, where the Earl of Warwick held the position of captain.  When Warwick returned from France, Trollope came with him to beef up the Yorkist position at Ludlow.  Unfortunately on the 12 October 1459 Trollope availed himself of the offer to swap sides and receive a pardon from Henry VI.  He duly took his men across the lines and spilled the beans about Richard of York’s plans.  York was forced to flee in the night and the people of Ludlow experienced first hand the problems of being on the losing side of a conflict .

We know that Trollope spent some time in France during the following year when the Lancastrians received a set back and we know that by December 1460 he was in Yorkshire. He and Somerset led the forces that defeated York at the Battle of Wakefield on the 30th December 1460.  We don’t know whether he tricked York into believing that he had more loyal men than he thought or whether he lured York out into open ground as the chronicler de Waurin recounts before revealing his true colours.

What we do know is that he fought at the second Battle of St Albans where he was knighted. An account of his role was given in Gregory’s Chronicle. He was injured by a caltrop (a spiky device left on the ground to injure animals and men) so stood and fought on the same spot killing fifteen men.  Six weeks later he was himself killed at the Battle of Towton in 1461 – Edward had specifically identified him as someone to be extinguished with the additional incentive of a reward of £100.

We also know that Trollope is an example of a man who benefitted from the Hundred Years War.  Historians think that he came from County Durham originally and that his background was the dying industry.  He rose because he distinguished himself on the battlefield, probably helped himself to any loot that was available and married well.  His wife was further up the social ladder than him being the sister of Osbert Mundeford one of his superior officers. Elizabeth and Sir Andrew had two children that we know of – one, David, was killed at Towton with  his father  (he’s sometimes identified as Andrew’s brother) whilst the other, Margaret, married Richard Calle was was the Pastons’ bailiff (as in the Paston Letters).

Wagner, John A. (2001) Encyclopedia of the Wars of the Roses.

 

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